It is no secret that I am a history enthusiast, especially when it comes to the stories of our state and nation. This week marked Ohio’s 214th birthday, 214 years since its official induction into the United States. With annual celebrations commemorating this special event happening at the Ohio Statehouse and around the rest of the state, I wanted to join the conversation and reflect upon the founding of the great state of Ohio.
This year celebrates another important founding component of Ohio’s history, the 230th anniversary of the Northwest Ordinance. In 1787, the United States Congress passed this ordinance, creating the Northwest Territory, the first organized territory of the country. The lands that would ultimately come to make up Ohio were included in this territory, stretching from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River and west until the Mississippi River. The government of the territory was organized in Marietta, Ohio’s first city.
But Ohio did not formally become the 17th state of the union until 1803, sixteen years later. President Thomas Jefferson’s signing of the Enabling Act of 1802 called for the admittance of Ohio into the United States as soon as possible, compelling delegates to draft a state constitution for the approval of Congress. With Congress’s approval and President Jefferson’s signature, Ohio became officially recognized as a state. The newly-elected Ohio General Assembly then took up state business for the first time in Chillicothe on March 1, 1803, the date associated with Ohio’s founding.
Over the next more than 200 years, Ohio developed, changed, and improved—transitioning from a primarily agricultural state to one with multiple successful industries, manufacturing, farming, and oil and gas production, among others. The state capital has since moved four times, from Chillicothe to Zanesville and back to Chillicothe, ultimately establishing its roots in Columbus, where it has remained since 1816. But despite its evolution and movement into today’s modern society, our principles as Ohioans remain the same.
Family, small town values, and the willingness to lend a helping hand to your neighbor all make up the Ohio spirit, a spirit that has endured the last 214 years. Ohio is a composite of large urban, metropolitan areas and small, rural communities, but regardless of our state’s diverse nature, we can all come together in our storied history to celebrate these shared values.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.